Kent State protests

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The Kent State protests of May 1970 took place on the campus of Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio. They began with violence and arson, degenerated into rioting and ended in the deaths of four students.

During the demonstration on May 1, 1970, "a mix of bikers, students, and out-of town youths" assaulted police with beer bottles and engaged in rioting and other criminal behavior in downtown Kent, forcing the entire Kent police force and several out-of-town police departments to come into the town to restore order.

On May 2, the campus ROTC building was set ablaze by arsonists. Protesters surrounded the building, cut a fire hose and assaulted fire fighters with rocks and other objects.[1] City officials and downtown businesses were also threatened by the rioters and their lawlessness during the mayhem. Kent mayor LeRoy Satrom called on Jim Rhodes, the governor of Ohio at the time, who then called out the Ohio National Guard. A number of protesters were arrested by the National Guard, mainly for curfew violations.

On May 3, protesters defying a curfew by Mayor Satrom were dispersed by guardsmen using tear gas.

Four student deaths

On May 4, around 2,000 people gathered for a previously planned rally to protest the American bombing of Cambodia, despite the university's announcement of a ban or cancellation. When a police official ordered the crowd to disperse, a riot broke out as his Jeep was pelted with rocks and one guardsman was injured. The two guard units advanced with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets and partly succeeded in dispersing the rioters.

Remaining students threw rocks and tear gas canisters at the guardsmen, whose orders to the rioters to disperse were refused. There are conflicting reports about whether guardsmen were fired upon (see opening fire or returning fire).

Some guardsmen fired their rifles. Shots were fired into the air, into the ground, but also directly at the rioters. A total of 67 shots were fired, hitting 13 people and killing 4 of them. The four casualties were Sandra Scheuer, Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, and William Schroeder. Angered students planned on responding with increasingly violent attacks on the National Guard, which would have led to massive student deaths if not for Kent State faculty members pleading with the rioters to stop and disperse.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the Kent State riots, students at universities across the United States organized and took part in demonstrations and student strikes, some of them violent, in protest of what happened at Kent State. One such student strike in New York City was countered by construction workers supporting President Richard Nixon, which led to the Hard Hat Riot on May 8, 1970 that left more than 70 people, including four policemen, injured and led to six arrests. On May 9, anti-war protesters descended on Washington, D.C. and engaged in rioting and lawlessness there in protest of the Kent State shootings and the Vietnam War. Similar rioting and criminality by protesters on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi led to the rioters there being shot at by city and state police on May 15, killing two and wounding 12. The students who took part in the Kent State riots and other campus student strikes were largely looked at disfavorably and denounced upon returning to their homes, with some disowned by their families. Nixon himself expressed that the student protesters involved in the anti-war movement were the tools of Communists who were organizing the movement.

The protest song "Ohio," written by Neil Young and performed by his group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, was inspired by the Kent State shootings. A 1981 made for TV docudrama movie, Kent State, was made about the Kent State riots.[2]

References

  1. Firemen left the scene after hoses were punctured and cut open, unable to extinguish the blaze. Kent State Library chronology
  2. Kent State at IMDb